Saturday, 28 May 2011

Italian evening- pizza and painting

We had an Italian evening for the local community last night and once again as with the Curry Nights see here and Christmas brunchessee here and other events see here, a lot of people came, and most of them were from the local community, as opposed to church people.
We had great food together,and the children enjoyed face painting and the chance to make their own pizzas . both activities were amazingly popular and the pizza making especially gave a whole new meaning to messy church!
A lot of good conversations took place and I had the chance to talk with 2 or 3 people about  faith.
These evenings are so worthwhile. I think many local people who don't yet come on Sunday now think about us as their church.

It was interesting last night that so many people lingered for long after the food and Italian quiz was finished.

A great evening ! A great chance to build relationships!

The question I am left with is how do we move this forward now?

Thursday, 26 May 2011


   Not sure  that I learned a great deal from this, but I did enjoy it! I may give the singing a go in the committee I am at tonight........Should ensure an early finish ;)
press here!

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Church meeting

I have been to a few excellent church meetings where we were able to discern God's presence and leading as the Holy Spirit spoke powerfully to the church.

I have, if I am honest, been to many mediocre meetings where there was a sense of needing to get the business done rather than on waiting on God together and I have been to a few dreadful ones (not recently) which seemed to be much more about politics and power struggles than prayer. In no way do I wish to absolve myself from all blame, that these latter meetings turned out the way they did!

Recently we have been experimenting with new ways of doing meetings Vision Meeting
Judging by the very positve comments we  felt this worked well and are already planning the next one. My own take is that the fact that the whole meeting was done in the context of worship,and that we gave time to it made all the difference
I was grateful today to The simple pastor for drawing my attention on his blog , to an excellent blog by Steve Holmes that touches on church meetings Steve Holmes blog about church meetings which he wrote partly in response to a comment by Mark Driscoll to the effect ‘it is almost impossible to be both congregational and missional’.
Though in fairness to Driscoll if "almost impossible "is too strong then I could go with "pretty difficult"!

I  enjoyed Holmes retelling of the history of voting at church meetings  and I particularly agreed with his conclusion

 Personally, I would like to do away with the practice of voting in church meeting: for a century it was prophetic; for another few decades it was useful; now it is toxic and undermining of the reality of what church meeting is about. If we are to keep it, however (and it may be that there are legal reasons why we must), we need to renarrate it powerfully enough and often enough that our people realise a vote at church meeting is not a way of promoting the interests of our party, but a way of participating in the shared task of discerning the mind of Christ.

As a church leader I would say Amen to that.     I think we are heading in the right direction.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

End of world postponed till October!

Oh dear Mr Camping is at it again Its now October
On the one hand I feel embarrassed for him .On the other I feel very sad that he has deceived people and appears to have ruined some peoples lives and is likely to have wrecked some peoples faith.

I certainly believe Christ will come again.The second coming is a foundational Christian truth, though I prefer NT Wrights theology to Harold Campings here
I wish Camping  believed Jesus when he says in Mark's gospel

"However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows

As a young Christian I read Hal Lindsey's" Late Great Planet Earth" which among other things, if my memory serves me right ,named Henry Kissinger as the anti -christ!
It took me a while to learn that the book belonged under  fantasy rather than theology on my bookshelf.
The Bible is not a code book that only Mr Camping can understand.It is is God's word.
Many people mock Camping for taking the bible too seriously my complaint is the opposite ,that he doesn't take it seriously enough.

To be in His presence

When people outside church ask what I do? and I tell them that I am a church leader ,a fair amount still say "What a great job you only work one day a week"! I smile weakly, and try to give the impression I have never heard that joke before.

Perhaps it is just because I am getting older,but even by recent standards this has seemed an incredibly busy year. I suspect that is a combination of a demanding building project , the need to plan for future ministry and raise finance, and perhaps a slightly higher number of pastoral issues.

I am conscious too how hard others in the church are also working,in many cases at the same time as holding down demanding jobs, or looking after busy families .I thank God for these fellow workers and for their commitment to building The Kingdom

I love what I do .I love working with the people I work with.I always have, and I hope and think I always will.I am so grateful for the encourager's who have walked with me down the years and still do.

However I am an activist by nature if there is a visit to do ,a meeting to hold or an email to write my temptation is to get on with it
The danger with this is that even in prayer my mind drifts to things that need to be done, or phone calls that need to be made.
How I need to learn to Be Still in God's presence. How I need to learn  again that God's work needs to be done in God's strength and not my own.Like many people Hymns and worship songs really keep my mind focussed on Jesus and enable me to examine my heart and soul.
I love this one which sums up what I believe God is calling His people to do

The lines "Keep us from just singing,move us into action" are especially powerful and for me at least act as a reminder that God calls us to be in His presence but He also sends us out to a needy world
Worship and Mission belong together!
As the song puts it fill us up and send us out

Monday, 23 May 2011

Love that will not let me go!

Like many churches we sing a mixture of old and new songs and hymns. I work on the theory that it is not the age that is important but the quality

I don’t play an instrument and apart from a devotion to the music and poetry of Leonard Cohen ( not found in many hymn books!) I have a rather eclectic, but not very informed, taste in music

When it come to music for worship I love a lot of the new stuff and a lot of the older stuff .I think it is important to ask not whether a song is old or new, but whether it is good or bad. This is about the tune but it is, in my view, more about the words, and especially the theology behind those words. So I love a lot of Townend and Wesley, How and Kendrick because in the main they teach great theology .It pains me to say it, but I suspect many Christians learn more about theology from hymns and songs than from preachers.

Yesterday we sung the blind preacher George Matheson's hymn ” O love that wilt not let me go” which some describe as sentimental, but is a favourite of mine, as it speaks so eloquently of the presence of God with His people in suffering .

Matheson himself wrote this about the hymn
it was composed on the evening of the 6th of June, 1882, when I was 40 years of age. I was alone in the manse at that time. It was the night of my sister’s marriage, and the rest of the family were staying overnight in Glasgow. Something happened to me, which was known only to myself, and which caused me the most severe mental suffering. The hymn was the fruit of that suffering. It was the quickest bit of work I ever did in my life. I had the impression of having it dictated to me by some inward voice rather than of working it out myself. I am quite sure that the whole work was completed in five minutes, and equally sure that it never received at my hands any retouching or correction. I have no natural gift of rhythm. All the other verses I have ever written are manufactured articles; this came like a day spring from on high

The whole story behind the hymn is told here

It is  not often I put in a good word for committees but it is interesting that the Church of Scotland Hymn committee made one change to the original;
 In the line "I climbed the rainbow in the rain" Matheson  had to substitute the word "Traced" for "Climbed"! In my mind a vast improvement.

It may be emotional but it is probably true to say that something is wrong if we cant get emotional about Gods love which hold onto us in the good times and the bad.We are called to love God with everything including our emotions

Saturday, 21 May 2011

I prefer NT Wright to Harold Camping

I remember when I was at university, seeing an  authours dedication on the inside of a bible commentary
"To my evangelical friends who taught me to love the bible and to my liberal friends who taught me to understand the bible" That inscription rankled then and it still does today.
However the newspapers today carry the picture of 89 year old Harold Camping who has worked out today is the end of the world.Here
They all describe Harold  as an evangelical . I can think of more appropriate(though less charitable) descriptions!
We need to take what the Bible says seriously as NT Wright does and place things in a proper context
So here is my antidote to Harold Camping. Well worth watching in my opinion

Thursday, 19 May 2011

New town centre building Shrewsbury

I am very excited about our town centre ministry and all the things our almost new building( we have to keep the front facade) will enable us to do there. Being concious that God does not live in buildings made by human hands, I cant say the technical stuff about the new building fascinates me, but all the same, I have been given the responsibility ,with others, for getting it right and so today was spent in more meetings with architects and builders just trying, with their help to get it right for ministry. The whole project is now moving rapidly and some decisions need to be made fast about certain things
I did enjoy however putting on my hard hat and yellow jacket and wandering around the building and for those interested here are some pictures of the progress so far!

And here is Rob who was at the meetings with me today

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Joining God in the Neighbourhood

I have been reading" Missional -joining God on the Neighborhood" by Alan Roxburgh

Regular readers of this blog will know that our church in Shrewsbury has been exploring what it means to be missional Building church for the future!,and to that end I (and some of the other leaders) have been reading people like Reggie McNeal,Alan Hirsch and others to help guide us on this adventure.Roxburgh is another 21st century pioneer of the missional movement
His basic contention is that since the 16th century our questions have been shaped by the Reformation and  are essentially therefore church questions
 Roxbugh's contention is that these are the wrong questions for the 21st century and that the task of the local church is to go out into local communities and join in with what the Spirit of God is already doing there.
I will not attempt a full review of this book except to say it is excellent and particularly helpful for a church like ours, rooted in a more traditional way of doing things.Indeed there are some very helpful questions at the back of the book to help a church make this important transition to being fully missional.
It was also affirming in that we have taken many of the steps Roxburgh is suggesting
Roxburgh's exposition of Lukes gospel (especially Luke 10) is very thought provoking and his potted history of Bishop Newbiggin  opened my eyes to the life story of an amazing man.

I commend the book to you-Roxburgh's thoughts are  here and Simon Jones blogs on the book here:
a sideways glance

Monday, 16 May 2011

Billy Graham reflections

Billy Graham

I hadn't spotted this before but it really is well worth reading
I heard Billy preach a few times ,the last time in 1984. I suppose along with John Stott,he influenced evangelicals more than any other person in the 20th century

Stephen Hawking and Heaven

I see Stephen Hawking is in the news again today  here
I am not sure Hawking is saying anything he hasn't said before.These days it is not very fashionable for scientists to believe in God, though many continue to do so.
Having failed to pass almost any science exam I ever took .I am really not qualified to debate the science, though  John  Lennox  Professor of Mathematics  at Oxford and Fellow in Mathematics and Philosophy of Science certainly is.

Lennox writes"
According to Hawking, the laws of physics, not the will of God, provide the real explanation as to how life on Earth came into being. The Big Bang, he argues, was the inevitable consequence of these laws ‘because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing.’
Unfortunately, while Hawking’s argument is being hailed as controversial and ground-breaking, it is hardly new.
For years, other scientists have made similar claims, maintaining that the awesome, sophisticated creativity of the world around us can be interpreted solely by reference to physical laws such as gravity.
It is a simplistic approach, yet in our secular age it is one that seems to have resonance with a sceptical public.
But, as both a scientist and a Christian, I would say that Hawking’s claim is misguided. He asks us to choose between God and the laws of physics, as if they were necessarily in mutual conflict.
But contrary to what Hawking claims, physical laws can never provide a complete explanation of the universe. Laws themselves do not create anything, they are merely a description of what happens under certain conditions.
What Hawking appears to have done is to confuse law with agency. His call on us to choose between God and physics is a bit like someone demanding that we choose between aeronautical engineer Sir Frank Whittle and the laws of physics to explain the jet engine.
That is a confusion of category. The laws of physics can explain how the jet engine works, but someone had to build the thing, put in the fuel and start it up. The jet could not have been created without the laws of physics on their own  -  but the task of development and creation needed the genius of Whittle as its agent.
Similarly, the laws of physics could never have actually built the universe. Some agency must have been involved.
To use a simple analogy, Isaac Newton’s laws of motion in themselves never sent a snooker ball racing across the green baize. That can only be done by people using a snooker cue and the actions of their own arms.
Hawking’s argument appears to me even more illogical when he says the existence of gravity means the creation of the universe was inevitable. But how did gravity exist in the first place? Who put it there? And what was the creative force behind its birth?"

Others including the Chief Rabbi  have also taken issue with Professor Hawking  here Chief Rabbi

As  a pastor though I have spent many hours with those who are dying and have often been struck by the hope of  many Christians in the face of death
I remember many years ago being with an old lady in her nineties who was dying. She  had been converted as a young girl during the 1904 Welsh Revival.Judging from the sense she had of the presence of Jesus which was reflected in her face, and by her repeating again and again the words "Jesus".I certainly believed then and believe now she was entering His presence.
I cannot prove that  but  I accept it as faith. I put my trust in Jesus who said I am the Resurrection and The Life"
I know not why God’s wondrous grace
To me He hath made known,
Nor why, unworthy, Christ in love
Redeemed me for His own.

But I know Whom I have believ├Ęd,
And am persuaded that He is able
To keep that which I’ve committed
Unto Him against that day.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Building church for the future !

The work on our town centre building continues.
Demolition is alsmost complete and rebuilding will begin shortly.
The planners  insisted we keep the front facade so this is not being demolished .
We do hope however to build an atrium on the front to increase the buildings "wow factor".

It was I think Churchill who said "We shape our buildings and then they shape us"

We are determined not to be club but to be a welcoming community, and therefore we are  committed to building something that is attractive, flexible and accessible so that this building can be used to serve and bless our community and it can be a place where the love of Jesus can be seen and shared..

All being well the new building will be opened fairly early in 2012

On Sunday the church spent 4 hours together thinking,praying and talking about exactly what ministries would take place in the building. It was a pretty inspiring time and what gave me immense pleasure was how so many people of different ages grasped the vision of what it means to be missional church.
In my view this is a much better way to do church meetings and the feedback we got seemed to confirm this view
Other churches are much further along this path,The Hub and we also showed this video from Finchampstead Baptist Church which is well worth looking at( forgive the slightly heavy denominational slant -it is still an exciting story!)

So these are very busy but very exciting days for us all -Lots of meetings about different aspects of the project ,but all the time trying to keep ourselves focussed on the goal .We are not here to build a building but to build God's Kingdom

Lots of people in the town wonder what is going on at the site and ask loads of questions. Hopefully they are beginning to believe that a new building will emerge from the rubble after demolition and hopefully to it wont be very long beore the signs go on the hoardings " Building church for the future- Building church for the community -building church for you!

Sunday, 8 May 2011

David Wilkerson Osama Bin laden- the contrast

2 different deaths
Was going to write something on these lines but somebody has already done it better than I could

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Osama bin Laden is dead

I woke up early this morning to hear the news breaking that Osama bin Laden is dead ,killed in an American operation. Many people will rejoice that a man held responsible for 9/11 and the agony and suffering caused by the destruction of so many lives is no more
I understand this point but still find it hard to rejoice in anyones death and I certainly pray that Osama's death will not unleash another cycle of violence and retaliation,death and destruction.
Mike Frost on his Facebook page has this comment
Remember Prov 24:17: "Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice". The violent destruction of evil must be greeted with silence and solemnity not crude celebration.

I think I will leave it at that and pray for peace in our world

Update this is the Vatican's reaction which for me at least seems sensible and sane

Osama Bin Laden – as everyone knows – has had the gravest responsibility for spreading hatred and division among people, causing the deaths of countless people, and exploiting religion for this purpose.
Faced with the death of a man, a Christian does not rejoice in anything, but reflects on the serious responsibility of everyone before God and man, and hopes and pledges that every event is not an opportunity for a further growth of hatred, but of peace.

Royal Wedding round up

As the long bank holiday weekend draws to a close, I thought I would link to a very  few  of the numerous blog posts I have seen on THE wedding!
One of the posts I enjoyed most was this one Read  on Eternal Echoes.
The video of the cartwheeling verger has gone viral.What joy and exuberance!However,it appears not everyone is pleased and Cranmer reports he is in trouble here
For a positive view from The USA see here Cecelia's blog
Not everyone was charmed though certainly not Ekklesia Read

Finchampstead -an inspiring story

In the next week or so we are meeting together as a church to continue to discern God's vision for us as our new building gets a bit closer to completion(.-the roof is now off and the walls are are coming down!)
We are determined to bless and serve (together with other Christians) the community in which God has placed us.
As we were thinking all this through we were struck by this video produced by The Baptist Union's Crossing Places initiative It is an exciting  and inspiring story!
A reminder that God is Faithful!